pH.Lab: WELCOME

 


#1 Welcome
It has been quite a journey so far in our exploration and experiences led by the mysterious indigo plant and other natural dyes. The options that nature provides are complex yet simple but abundant. The traditional techniques that have been mastered and refined throughout generations are invaluable. Without effort and modern technology these precious ideas, nuances, intricacies, complexity and research that has already been experimented on will all come to an end. At pH.lab we realize that this is a lifetime mission and beyond, a documentation in the evolution of time. We are here to approach things differently by using history as our guide. Technology, innovation, and evolution of the human condition to help solve the problems of our future. Our community is our strength and I'm thrilled that we continue to grow and learn together.

WELCOME TO pH.lab

- Philip 
What happens at pH.lab
pH.lab is a state of mind really, it's about exploration and we have a lab in Bangkok and also in Brooklyn which we founded in 2019. The work that we do when we are in Isan with the artisans, though it doesn't look much like an actual lab, is definitely the kind of experimentation which would happen in a lab. The main focus of the lab is experimentation with indigo and other natural dyes found from indigenous plants of the region to discover new ways to dye and ignite new conversations from age-old knowledge. We keep a microscope at pH.lab Bangkok to see what the plants and dyes really are on a microscopic level. Indigo is a living dye, it exists through a live fermentation process so to see what's happening up close is fascinating. 
Indigo and Pradu under a microscope at pH.lab 2021

Indigo dye magnified by 10x and Pradu dye made from Pradu tree bark magnified at 40x. It is how the natural world and science meets in the middle that inspires us, when working with the artisans, they often go by instinct and  years of experience. Parallel to this are the reactions that are happening to make colors and dyes bind to fabrics. 

Indigofera Tinctoria Plate by J.Schaly in 1817  

I first came across this plate at a symposium that I was a part of at the Contemporary Art Center of the Nanyang Tech University NTU in Singapore. The symposium was part of a an exhibition called Trees of Life curated by Ute Meta Bauer. It reminds me that indigo is a plant that has been around for a long time and one that had and continues to have an impact on the global narrative relating to trade, value and culture. 

Since 2015 we have been going to Sakon Nakhon in Isan to work with the artisans in rural villages. Dyeing and weaving along with farming is part of their traditional way of life. Weaving and dyeing is often organised in weaving co-ops run by older women, Indigo grandmas and aunties. Most of the artisans we work with and pass on knowledge to us are women. It is this knowledge that we bring to the lab and to explore find new ways to look at and make things. 
Research
Beyond indigo we research other natural dyes, plants and materials, as well as explore the potential of merging different materials, new and old. Materiality is an important part of what we do, tracking where these materials come from and where they end up is part of the mission of pH.lab. 
Community
Our community is our strength - from the artisans in Isan to the small ateliers and skills development centers that we work with in Bangkok, we would not be able to do what we do without them. Our community also extends to the artists, filmmakers, designers and chefs that we work and collaborate with. pH.lab is also a vehicle for them to experiment and explore new avenues for traditional knowledge and engage in skills development and knowledge sharing. 
pH.lab Video Series
Now in its 2nd season, the pH.lab video series documents our process and shares them. Season 1 was focused on indigo, how to dye and more. You can now get your own DIY indigo dyeing kit straight from the farmers in Sakon Nakhon to start your own journey. Watch the series here.
New Episode
S.2 Ep.4:TAMARIND
Join us for Season 2 where we explore the world around indigo and other natural dyes. The components found in nature that can be used in daily life whether it is a plant dye from pantry spices or our latest video, tamarind. We use as a key ingredient to feed our indigo and in various dishes, for example the Pad Thai. 
Watch Now

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